10 Hidden Gems for the Nintendo 64

17.02.2023 0 By admin

The N64 was home to a veritable treasure trove of classics, and Nintendo fans of the late 90s were spoilt for choice when it came to top quality-gaming, even if they did have to use that bizarre, three-pronged controller. While Sony and Sega were embracing disc-based technology, Nintendo were stubbornly sticking to the trusty cartridge, and they managed to cram some all-time greats onto those chunky pieces of plastic.

From 3D platforming pioneer, Super Mario 64, and all-time FPS great, Goldeneye, to the arcadey space battles of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and best game ever contender, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the console was flush with top notch titles that have been celebrated through the ages. We’re casting them aside today, though.

Yes, that’s right, forget about bear and bird duos, flying foxes, sensational super-spies and foul-mouthed squirrels, because we’re going for the obscure stuff here. We’re interested in that particular breed of game that is rarely spoken about, but that is still really good. A few of you might have heard of them, and might even have played them, but for the most part the following titles were overlooked when they were released, and are still overlooked now. Hopefully, we’ll shine a light on something that escaped your notice.

I’m Peter from TripleJump, and here are 10 Hidden Gems for the Nintendo 64.

10. Space Station Silicon Valley

Long before they were making politicians cringe with games based on violence and organised crime, Rockstar North were good pals with family-friendly Nintendo. This would all end thanks to another N64 hidden gem known as Body Harvest, but before their relationship was soured by depictions of genocidal aliens, Rockstar North, then known as DMA designs, created Space Station Silicon Valley.

In this eccentric platformer, players take control of a robot called Evo. Evo is reduced to a crawling microchip due to a faulty ejector seat, and must latch on to nearby animals to gain their attacks and abilities. While the subject matter had potential for a dark twist, Space Station Silicon Valley maintained a colourful, cutesy appeal that was right up Nintendo’s street.

The story concerned the titular space station, which was filled with animals and launched into the cosmos like a sci-fi Noah’s ark. When the space station mysteriously returned, the animals had merged with the craft’s machinery, and protagonist Evo and his human pal, Dan Danger, are sent to investigate. Alas, this cool premise, along with delightful visuals and great gameplay, couldn’t save the game from obscurity.

It might have had something to do with it launching alongside Ocarina of Time. Maybe it should have stayed in orbit for a little longer.

9. Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth

Cutting edge FPS games with state-of-the-art graphics and innovative gameplay elements are great and all, but sometimes you just want to kick it old school. Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth attempts to scratch that classic shooter itch on a console that was somewhat bereft of games from that genre, and did a lovely job with it, too.

It might not look amazing compared to many of its contemporaries, and it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it is absolutely full of things to shoot with your unlimited laser blasts. Sometimes in video games, as in life in general, a laser cannon with unlimited ammo is really all you need.

Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth provides a fun and fast-paced baddie blasting experience, and features all of the ingredients that you’d expect to find in an explosive, scrolling shooter recipe. Multiple ship options with different strengths and weaknesses? Check. Toe-tapping, upbeat music to accompany your glorious trail of destruction? Check. Hordes of spectacularly exploding enemies and bosses to take down? Check.

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Look, don’t think too hard about it. Just strap in, put your space pilot helmet on, and go stop the Earth from vanishing or whatever the storyline is.

8. Buck Bumble

While Rare were churning out classic after classic for Nintendo during the N64’s lifespan, they weren’t the only British developer on the 64-bit block. Argonaut Software were also in the mix, and had a previous relationship with Nintendo too, having worked alongside the Japanese giant on the creation of Star Fox for the SNES.

Their single N64 effort had a similar feel, but instead of Star Fox’s on-rails action, Buck Bumble mixes open world exploration in with its airborne gameplay. Oh, and you’re a mutated bumble bee resistance fighter, but I’m not sure if that’s all that much weirder than a fox in a space ship, to be honest.

The premise concerns a chemical accident in London that resulted in all the nearby insects mutating. Many of these mutated minibeasts formed an evil alliance called “The Herd”, and the protagonist, a heroic bumble bee, is fighting back against this corrupt cabal of creepy-crawlies. It all results in a fun, free-roaming shooter with various gameplay elements that expand on what the developer learned with Star Fox, such as being able to hover in one place or walk on the ground.

Ignore that heavy use of distance fog and you’ll have a great time, and if you don’t like it, then you can buzz off! Wait, no, not really, please come back!

7. S.C.A.R.S.

With its power-ups, tight track design and quirky rides, S.C.A.R.S. for the Nintendo 64 found itself in the unenviable position of being in direct competition with the likes of Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing. However, it wasn’t developer, Vivid Image’s, first dalliance with the big boys, as they previously went up against Mario Kart in the 16-bit era with Street Racer.

S.C.A.R.S. (which apparently stands for Super Computer Animal Racing Simulation) provides an interesting take on the usual kart racer antics, eschewing wacky characters in wacky karts in favour of vehicles and circuits based on various animals and their habitats. Nothing cute here, either. Scorpions, rattlesnakes, sharks, praying mantises, and other such animals with attitude take to the tracks. Take your puppies and kittens and go home, kids. This is where the cool animals race.

While S.C.A.R.S. was also available on the PSX, the Nintendo 64 version was reportedly superior in both graphics and gameplay, meaning that Nintendo’s console is the place to go if you’ve got an urge to drive a shark-shaped car around a track. Also, its developers were brave enough to take on the mighty Mario Kart on more than one occasion, and we have to admire that moxie.

6. Tom and Jerry in Fists of Furry

If I asked you to name a fighting game on the N64 featuring numerous well-known and eye-catching characters, odds are you’d go with Super Smash Bros., but there is another option for fans of chaotic, cartoony brawling that got swept under the gaming rug long ago. Tom and Jerry in Fists of Furry takes the slapstick violence of the classic show and presents a multiplayer fighting game in which mouse and cat can vie for fluffy dominance.

In truth, it plays more like Dreamcast gem, Power Stone, than Smash Bros., but this is no bad thing, as Power Stone was great, and this odd clone wasn’t half bad either. There’s something to be said for watching animated animals rampage around locations from the show, battering the bejeezus out of each other with anything they can lay their paws on.

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Players pick from a whole host of the cartoon’s recurring characters, including lots of peripheral characters that you probably forgot the name of. The dog is called Spike and this other cat is named Butch. You learn something new every day.

Alas, as far as we can tell, there’s no sign of Tom’s owner, Mammy Two Shoes
frequently depicted as a pair of legs and a broom often seen shooing off the naughty critters. This is probably because she was later considered to be a

rather offensive stereotype but if they’d replaced her with her modern counterpar, she could have been been like Master Hand from Smash Bros. but … you know, legs. Is this? No, never mind. 5. Mischief Makers

Two games that come up in N64 hidden gems discussions almost too often to be considered hidden any more, are Mischief Makers and Jet Force Gemini. Both are excellent, both underperformed at retail, and both have somewhat off-putting early 3D box art. We’re going with Mischief Makers, however, as, of the two, its box art is way more off-putting.

In the game, players take control of a jet pack-equipped robotic maid known as Ultra -InterGalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears (don’t worry, you can call her Marina) as she embarks on a quest to save her kidnapped creator. This happens on the planet Clancer, which is filled with blocks, enemies and other inhabitants inscribed with bizarre, sad faces. Marina’s main method of interacting with these grimacing entities is by grabbing them and shaking them. Whether it’s a platform that needs moving or boss that needs defeating, grabbing it and shaking it will likely solve the problem eventually.

Developed by Treasure, a company previously known for an array of top-quality titles on Sega consoles, Mischief Makers received a decidedly average reception from critics who were clamouring for 3D worlds to explore. In more recent retrospectives, however, the game has been recognised as probably the console’s shiniest hidden gem. Maybe it’s time for someone to shake up a remake.

4. Rakugakids

Released exclusively in Japan and Europe, this madcap Konami-developed title is a one-on-one fighter with gameplay similar to the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom. However, unlike in literally any other game we can think of, Rakugakids presented a world where children’s drawings come to life and face each other in epic battles to the death.

Alright, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic. The game has a light and breezy feel, with adorably zany characters filling out the roster that seem to have come straight out of the imaginations of particularly inventive children. These include Marsa, a witch whose hat is a chicken, and Beartank, a bear with added tank parts.

Admittedly, it’s not going to blow away any hardcore Street Fighter aficionados or replace the likes of Fatal Fury in anyone’s fighting game collection, but Rakugakids is a fun time with a unique visual style and interesting, 2.5D graphics.

Reviews were all over the place for this particular oddity, with scores ranging from 35% to 85% depending on which publication you asked, but we think its unique style makes it well worth a try. Can you think of any other games that look like PaRappa the Rapper but play like Mortal Kombat? Didn’t think so.

3. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

With the N64 being one of the few Nintendo consoles without its own entry into the hallowed Fire Emblem series, fans of Japanese, tactical strategy might have been feeling a little left out. After all, PS1 owners were enjoying Final Fantasy Tactics and Saturn fans had Shining Force III to scratch that particular itch. The grass certainly would have looked greener on the other side, especially if you missed out on our next hidden gem.

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Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber was the third game in the Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre series, and mixed tactical and real-time combat, which differentiates it from the turn-based affairs mentioned earlier. The game’s plot details a civil war and political strife in a fantastical land, and gameplay flows from detailed stat and preparation screens, to involved battles, where players control up to fifty soldiers that are arranged into smaller units

It was praised as being a deep, addictive and thoughtful strategy game, but N64 owners at the time were too caught up with plumbers and fairies to give it a go. For shame.

Also, I’m really digging that subtitle. So much so, in fact, that I might make it my subtitle. From now on, you shall refer to me as Peter Austin: Person of Lordly Caliber.

2. Beetle Adventure Racing

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most iconic cars ever produced, and it has starred in a few of its own games over the years, including a couple of Herbie adaptations. Most of them aren’t anything to write home about, but Beetle Adventure Racing for the N64 is an exception to that rule.

Published by Electronic Arts, this driving game offered four players the chance to race around graphically impressive courses in gameplay reminiscent of EA’s own Need for Speed series. Unlike Need for Speed, though, Beetle Adventure Racing encouraged players to experiment with racing lines and alternate routes in order to collect the crates needed to progress in the game.

It also had a “Beetle Battle” mode, in which players race to collect various bugs, giving the game plenty of variety to make up for the fact that you can only drive one car. Contemporary reviewers were suitably impressed, but the game is rarely talked about in modern conversations.

As an interesting side-note, the game was released in Australia as HSV Adventure Racing, and featured cars from Australian manufacturer, Holden, instead. That’s like the American release changing all the cars into Dodge models or the British version only featuring Mini Coopers. I guess they’re not fans of Beetles down under.

1. Bangai-O

Our second hidden gem developed by the hidden gem aficionados over at Treasure, Bangai-O is more well known in the West for being a Dreamcast game, but it released first on the N64. It’s a unique and addictive take on the side-scrolling shooter genre that very few people played.

In Bangai-O, players take control of one of two mech pilots, and stomp and leap around arena-like stages, exploding buildings and collecting the fruits found within. Now, you might be willing to take the fruit-based pick-ups at face value. After all, fruit is one of the accepted retro game points items, ever since Pac-Man started munching cherries back in the early 80s. There’s more to that here though, as the story of Bangai-O concerns our intrepid pilots taking on an organised crime ring who have been smuggling fruit. Truly, a more heinous crime I have never witnessed in video games.

Still, bootleg bananas aside, Bangai-O is an artfully balanced multi-directional shooter that allows players to produce spectacular strings of bullet-based mayhem, and watching a pro in action really is something to behold.

A couple of sequels did eventually make it to the West, one for the Nintendo DS and one for Xbox consoles. So, what are you waiting for? Go shoot some fruit bandits!